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The Tortoise and the Hare

Well, as of tomorrow, I've reached a major milestone: It'll be two months since I had my laparoscopic myomectomy to remove two uterine fibroids, and I honestly thought I'd never reach this point in one piece. Heck, I didn't even think I would be in a much better place mentally, emotionally, or even physically at this point. First of all, I'm doing so much better now. I'm just about healed from the surgery, and I can do many of the things I've missed since my recovery. I can take long walks again. I can eat much of my favorite foods again. I can exercise again. I can actually lift and carry things again! I can go for a little jog if I wanted to. I can fit into my clothes again (barring any drastic changes to my weight). I can hang out with friends again and actually go to new places again. I can climb stairs again! I can actually have a normal period again. It feels so nice to reach this milestone, isn't it? But here's the thing about recovery: It didn't happen overnight. Nor did I want to go back to doing the things I wanted to do prior to the surgery. My body wouldn't let me. I wouldn't let me. There was a mix of fear and trepidation in getting back to normal because of the word setbacks sounding alarm bells in my brain. I didn't want to be any more sick or down and out because I was afraid I would be more worthless to others. My mom was the one who drove me to and from the surgery, and she took the day off from her remote job to be with me that day. Then, she had to be back at work the next day, and I had to slowly start maneuvering being independent again while recovering at home. It's not easy being independent and recovering from surgery at home. Don't get me wrong; I am profoundly grateful to have recovered from home. But when your mother is a medical professional who knows plenty of things about surgery, anesthesia, and recovery, you better pay attention because you may live to regret it if you don't. And here's something else about my recovery: I was scared that if I gave into my desires of recovering faster (aka impatience), I would be in a worse place now than when I initially began my recovery. I think the idea of going slow was instilled in me because of fear, even if I wanted the pain to go away and for me to do what I did before the surgery. Even if the fear was placed in me, I have no regrets of going slow in my recovery. In fact, it reminds me of a popular fable I read when I was a child. Perhaps you know about it? Does The Tortoise and the Hare ring a bell for you?

In case you don't remember the story, it's pretty straightforward: There are two animals - a hare and a tortoise - who are competing against each other in the race. The hare, naturally, is faster than the tortoise, so it's to be expected that he should win the race easily. And in many cases, he should have, if he didn't stop to show off or take a long nap. On the other side of the coin, the tortoise, who is naturally slow, keeps on s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-l-y making his way to the finish line, never giving up or stopping his progress. And what do you think happens? You guessed it. The tortoise wins the race! The hare is flabbergasted, of course, and wonders how the tortoise was able to beat him. And what do you think the tortoise (Aesop) says? "Slow and steady wins the race." I never thought being slow in my recovery would get me back to as close to where I was prior to my surgery. I always thought that I would be like the hare and bounce back quickly, and in some cases I did. Eating lots of fiber, fruits and vegetables, and exercising can help with recovery. Just a thought. But when I look back on it now, I was more like the tortoise. I was literally forced to s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w down in order to make sure I can be as close to back to normal again without any setbacks or further injuries to my body. I'm still taking things slowly, but not as slow as before. And it's not just my physical health that's taking time fully heal. It's my mental and emotional health. It's my career. It's my relationships with others. And the part that's the most important in this s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w progression? I shouldn't have to be afraid to heal. In fact, none of us should be afraid to be like the tortoise. Read on, MacDuff.

In the weeks since my surgery, I actually kind of enjoyed slowing down and resting. Especially when my body tells me to do both things. I heard stories of how people can bounce back to doing a four mile jog or 1.5 hours of strength training after a week or two of recovery. I wasn't sure who to believe, and in some cases, I wasn't sure if I believed my doctor if I could bounce back so fast. So, the obvious solution was to listen to my doctor's instructions about recovering at home and listening to my body... Because my body is different from everyone else's. It's the same with everyone else. Nobody's recovery is the same as the next person, so why base it off of the other's recovery? And more importantly, why put your expectations on recovery on another person to get back to the way things are just so you can be at your best? Think about it: Often, we see people leave work for a brief period for health reasons like surgery, or for the impending birth of a child, or for a vacation, or even just to find themselves away from everything else. And then, they return to work and get back to the craziness of their schedules because it's what's expected of them. Hang "what's expected"! Hang it all! Granted, you shouldn't be allowed to jump right back into work immediately following a surgery, giving birth, or taking a mental vacation. That would not be wise because you'll be in too much pain, you're too tired, and you can't think straight. (I would be very surprised if you did!) But in the weeks that follow in your recovery and healing, you have to get back to as closest to 100% as you can so you can get paid, not let your colleagues down, and make sure things don't fall apart because you're relied upon for many things as an employee. I can tell you from personal experience, it doesn't work that way. It NEVER has worked that way. So, why does society tell us that we have to rush back into who we were prior to the surgery, giving birth, taking a mental break, etc. just so we can be on their timeline for success and stability. Whatever happened to being a tortoise? Whatever happened to s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-i-n-g down? Whatever happened to being kind to yourself and to others who are going at a much s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-e-r pace in their recovery (or in general)? Whatever happened to accepting that there are days when you can't give 100% all the time? Whatever happened to just seeing that we're all humans, and not robots, and we need love, understanding, patience, and grace in our healing and recovery? And more importantly, not abusing it just for your own benefit? Incidentally, I had a similar conversation with someone I knew on this topic several weeks ago. It seems like the arts industry has a tendency to keep moving at a breakneck speed to have shows and projects completed, even when someone takes time off for health or personal reasons. I wondered why the industry doesn't just s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w down and take into consideration the needs of people who are working - actor, director, screenwriter/playwright, costume designer, etc. - and actually slow down and not have them rush back into things without injuring themselves. Well, this person reached out to me and told me that if they s-l-o-o=o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-e-d down for every person who has taken time off for various reasons, the industry would collapse and businesses would be ruined. That response didn't sit with me too well, and I simply said "it's not right." What's wrong with taking people's health and personal well-being into consideration, even if it means being s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w? I think the idea of "that's the way it is" is rubbing off on me the wrong way. Especially after a global pandemic literally forced everyone to s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w and stay safe. It was a time for reflection, catching up on the things people have missed for moving too fast, and make some deep reflections on life. It was supposed to be a time for change and making things better for everyone coming from the top down. It was supposed to be a time where we adjust and create new habits to better our lives, no matter how small they may seem. Well, lo and behold, much of that went out the window due to many people who simply can't stay at home and stay safe, let alone think about other's needs. And much of those changes that everyone was expecting? Like transparency in who they hire or salaries? Like making more connections with and using more people of color and underrepresented people in the jobs and fields that seem to flourish with a primary Caucasian focus? Like raising the payment scale to one where everyone can afford to having a place to live, food on the table, and health needs met without worry? Like breaking down the old habits that stood the test of time for so long because they didn't work to begin with? Like examining past prejudices and discrimination and making a valiant and determined step to eradicate the ideas and possibly people who uphold them to make the business a safer and more efficient place? Like taking steps to properly elucidate and maintain positive health habits for everyone (physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual, if it comes to it)? Like treating employees as people and not as indispensable to throw away on a regular basis? Like actually trying new methods of funding, environmentally friendly practices, and collaboration with new organizations and actually implementing them? They weren't put into practice whatsoever. In fact, many businesses and organizations went back to what originally worked for them, or in the case of billion dollar businesses that still continued to work during the pandemic, they never changed their habits at all. It was empty promises once it was deemed as close to safe as possible to return to in-person activities. Maybe "that's the way it is" was back into their frame of mind once business started ramping back up again. Or perhaps it was something else that drove them back into old habits. Fear. The pandemic was a challenging time for all of us, but for some people, they just don't like the idea of being forced to s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w down and take some time for reflections and make changes that can improve their lives and the lives of others. Somehow, selfishness, ignorance, and just plain stupidity disguised as fear took over when people realized that they had to be away from other people, businesses, and their overall way of life for much longer than three weeks. They rebelled against science, people who are considered at risk in their health, and others who tried to reason with them that s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-i-n-g down is okay and it's for the best of everyone. They rebelled against change because they felt that they were above change despite it being the only constant, and they felt that they should only reap the rewards of their "hard-earned money" and no one else should have the same benefits and rights as they do. It's as if this pandemic was nothing more than a nuisance and didn't see the need to s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w down because of what they could lose instead of what they could gain. Believe me, I get it. I was afraid of being out of work for so long and not being able to perform in person consistently. But this time had more benefits than you realize: I got to continue to work on my craft virtually and eventually perform in person safely with some incredible artists, writers, and more. I got to ramp up my cooking and baking skills, and I can say with full confidence that I love to do both of those things. I got to enjoy long walks and nature so much more because it gives me the chance to breathe and clear my head when I need it the most. Sometimes we tend to look at the glass half empty instead of the glass half full in cases like this, and we had a whole year and a half to change our thinking and reflect. Even still, we had four years to really change our thinking. I feel sorry for those who never really changed their habits during and after the pandemic. It really was a time to adapt and grow into the people we were meant to become, and be the organizations/businesses that could make a difference in people's lives that could better and improve things for everyone, not just a select few. It's sad that people are just plain selfish and full of themselves that they couldn't use this time of s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-i-n-g to let go of what they know and embrace change. There's nothing wrong with it. Really, there isn't. Take from someone who knows. Change is hard. Growth is hard. Adapting is hard. But consider the alternative: Standing still. And missing out on what life can offer you if you open your mind and heart to the possibilities. I know you don't want to stand still. I know you want to charge ahead like the hare out of fear of being in last place and being called a failure and being blamed for everything that went wrong. But I'm here to tell you it's okay to be a tortoise. It really is. S-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w down. (I'm thankful for taking time out of my busyness to write these posts to you, but I want you to s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w down and remember something important about these blogs: these are my observations and opinions. You are welcome to disagree with anything I say in each of these posts. But what I won't tolerate is disrespectful, offensive language or unkindness to each other. We have to change our thinking in that regard, and it's not okay to keep doing these actions to one another. If you can't do a simple thing like that, I will block you.)

Somehow, being s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w does have its benefits. For yours truly, it's given me time to appreciate the little things that bring me joy and help me get out of my head. I mean, for my recovery, I had plenty of time for rest and reflection, and also to implement some much needed changes for the rest of 2024. For starters... I'm reading my Bible and praying more, sometimes up to three times a day. I have affirmations up in my apartment to constantly look at when I'm feeling down. I have a to-do list to have six daily things I need to do in order to help me be more proactive and steadfast to what I can accomplish. I got back into working out, starting out with 15-20 minute exercises, and I'm now starting to add a 30 minute workout for once a week. I hope to continue building those minutes as my strength continues to come back. I've decided to not eat certain foods ever again, particularly those that are deeply fried and have LOTS of salt and fat, though it pains me to say this. That means I'm no longer eating (from restaurants) cheeseburgers, fries, fried chicken, salami, sausage, pepperoni, ham, egg rolls, bacon, onion rings, chorizo, pork, bologna, and more. No more Shake Shack, McDonald's, BurgerFi, Chipotle, Cubano's, &pizza, Five Guys, Pizza Hut, Popeye's, you get the idea. But I am going to make some of these foods at home because I know exactly what ingredients I'm putting into what I cook, and I can bake these items in the over and air fryer as opposed to straight frying them and using boxed foods to make my meals. I'm enjoying the fresh air more and sunshine with longer walks than when I first started my recovery. You see, sometimes change can come in the most unexpected of ways when we take the time to s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w down. You either have to be open to it, or it will come to you, through force if need be, whether you're ready or not. It's okay to be a tortoise. You don't have to be the hare all the time. Remember this as you go about your day: "Slow and steady wins the race." S-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w down. It really is okay to do that, you know.

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